Submitted by Darren Hoerner
Avery Conner knows what he wants to do with his life. Now a Senior at Lopez Island High School, he moved to the island from Waldron as a Freshman. That year he bought a few cows and saw his interest in animals quickly turn into a passion for raising livestock. Since then, Avery has added sheep and goats to his herd of cows being raised in a pasture along Davis Bay Road. Land stewardship and managing these fields in an environmentally friendly way characterize his holistic approach to bringing superior meat to market.
As an aspiring farmer, Avery is already finding success in partnership with the high school, Lopez Locavores, and the Lopez Community Land Trust. And he’s not alone. He and Josh Kramer, another student, have met the criteria to sell USDA-approved beef from their cows to be used in their school’s cafeteria. Avery says he’s excited, “to share quality, grass-fed beef with the school.”
Supporting young student farmers in providing locally raised beef to fellow students is a dream of the school’s LIFE Garden and Cafeteria program.
LIFE’s mission focuses on promoting health through the creation of sustainable, local, community-based farm and garden experiences integrated into the school’s curriculum and cafeteria. This program already plants and harvests amazing amounts of organic vegetables and fruit to feed students as well as provide experiential educational opportunities related to science, math, history, geography, art and literature through growing food. Expanding the benefit to include purchasing locally grown pasture-raised beef adds value as it also helps to strengthen the local food system and support local farmers.
While the school budget covers the cost for some of the beef, an additional $5,000 will need to be raised by financial support from the broader community. Lopez Locavores and LCLT are collaborating on this drive.
“This initiative is bigger than the purchase of cows from kids. We are celebrating new leaders of a sustainable future on Lopez Island. Our collective support demonstrates that we trust and respect these young famers and their contributions to our island community,” observes Sue Roundy, president of Lopez Locavores.
You can help the cafeteria purchase Josh and Avery’s cows by donating online at http://www.lopezclt.org/ or mail a check made out to the Lopez Locavores, c/o Ande Finley, Treasurer, PO Box 452, Lopez Island, WA 98261. Please designate your online gift or check to the LIFE Program (Lopez School Garden Program).
Learn more about the beef initiative at the next Evening Meals at School from 5:30-7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 3, in the Multi-Purpose Room. There will be a special Fall Harvest menu highlighting the abundance of food grown or raised on Lopez Island. Everyone is welcome to attend. Avery will be on hand to share more about raising his cows and why grass-fed, local meat is important. Come and enjoy a delicious chef-prepared meal and celebrate this success story of collaboration in creating a strong food system that supports island farmers while providing quality food to our students.